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Driving With The Devil

by Neal Thompson
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press
  • Publishing date: 28/08/2007
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9781400082261
  • ISBN: 1400082269

Synopsis

“Moonshiners put more time, energy, thought, and love into their cars than any racer ever will. Lose on the track and you go home. Lose with a load of whiskey and you go to jail.” —Junior Johnson, NASCAR legend and one-time whiskey runner

Today’s NASCAR is a family sport with 75 million loyal fans, which is growing bigger and more mainstream by the day. Part Disney, part Vegas, part Barnum & Bailey, NASCAR is also a multibillion-dollar business and a cultural phenomenon that transcends geography, class, and gender. But dark secrets lurk in NASCAR’s past.

Driving with the Devil uncovers for the first time the true story behind NASCAR’s distant, moonshine-fueled origins and paints a rich portrait of the colorful men who created it. Long before the sport of stock-car racing even existed, young men in the rural, Depression-wracked South had figured out that cars and speed were tickets to a better life. With few options beyond the farm or factory, the best chance of escape was running moonshine. Bootlegging offered speed, adventure, and wads of cash—if the drivers survived. Driving with the Devil is the story of bootleggers whose empires grew during Prohibition and continued to thrive well after Repeal, and of drivers who thundered down dusty back roads with moonshine deliveries, deftly outrunning federal agents. The car of choice was the Ford V-8, the hottest car of the 1930s, and ace mechanics tinkered with them until they could fly across mountain roads at 100 miles an hour.

After fighting in World War II, moonshiners transferred their skills to the rough, red-dirt racetracks of Dixie, and a national sport was born. In this dynamic era (1930s and ’40s), three men with a passion for Ford V-8s—convicted criminal Ray Parks, foul-mouthed mechanic Red Vogt, and crippled war veteran Red Byron, NASCAR’s first champion—emerged as the first stock car “team.” Theirs is the violent, poignant story of how moonshine and fast cars merged to create a new sport for the South to call its own.

Driving with the Devil is a fascinating look at the well-hidden historical connection between whiskey running and stock-car racing. NASCAR histories will tell you who led every lap of every race since the first official race in 1948. Driving with the Devil goes deeper to bring you the excitement, passion, crime, and death-defying feats of the wild, early days that NASCAR has carefully hidden from public view. In the tradition of Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit, this tale not only reveals a bygone era of a beloved sport, but also the character of the country at a moment in time.


From the Hardcover edition.

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  • Excellent history of the early days of stock car racing.
    From Amazon

    I will keep this short since most reviewer's have already posted the good things about this book. That being said the only real problem I have with it is the author's main argument that NASCAR did not begin in 1948 with Bill France but had existed for nearly two decades before. This is wrong since NASCAR - National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing did in fact begin in 1948. Stock car racing on the other hand had existed prior to that. I know that this is nitpicking, but if this is the only major problem I have with the book, it says alot about the quality of the work. "Oh George hide thy face and mourn" - Nathanial Greene

  • A Good Story - Buried in a Mountain of Local Color
    From Amazon

    Buried deep in this book - 230 pages deep - is the interesting story of the birth of NASCAR and of Bill France's theft of the organization from the other original members. The story of the founding of NASCAR certainly needs some historical background but two thirds of a book is too much. The real focus of the book is Raymond Parks, an Atlanta bootlegger and early racing team owner, but a book featuring him in the title would never sell. Readers learn more than they want to know about him, other local bootleggers/drivers, and the evolution of auto racing in the region before World War II. This book is more sociology than technology. The author's explanations of engine components are almost comical. There is a total lack of illustrations or tables of data such as the drivers' final points stands after a racing season. This book may appeal more to readers interested in the history and sociology of Appalachia during the 1930's and 1940's than to NASCAR fans.

  • Shift Your Understanding of Stock Car Racing into High Gear
    From Amazon

    Well-written and thoroughly researched, Neal Thompson's Driving with the Devil offers a spectacular view of stock car racing's humble beginnings outside Atlanta and traces the organization of the sport through some of its lesser-known, but more illustrious legends: moonshiner turned entrepreneur Ray Parks, mechanic Red Vogt and early champions like Lloyd Seavy, Roy Hall and Red Byron. While detailing the history of NASCAR and its transition from hobby for prohibition-era moonshine runners to multi-billion dollar enterprise, Thompson takes care to document the concurrent rise (and fall) of Ford and the evolution of driver/promoter Bill France (whose family still owns NASCAR today). Ancillary stories relating to these men's humble upbringings to experiences in WWII add additional color, dimension and perspective. Dynamic in every way, this was an excellent read. Thompson creates a world that embraces and explains NASCAR's Southern roots without indulging in stereotypes. I began the book a skeptic and am leaving the book a fan.

  • Speed and Hooch. Great combo
    From Amazon

    I loved the book. I had no idea that NASCAR was born out of the world of moonshiners, so this all struck me as fascinating, well-researched news. A lot of the sources the author interviewed for the book are now dead, which makes this book the last chance to get the truth form the horse's mouth. I'm amazed that he was able to track down so many printed/written sources, which you would have thought had disappeared due to the sports' shady or messy history. The last chapter is especially a hoot. Would recommend!

  • One of the best motorsports books ever written
    From Amazon

    I collect racing literature, on all forms of motorsport. I've read a lot of racing books, probably several hundred. I can't think of one that is any better. Its that good.

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